Julissa’s Treasure Box

RDP Tuesday: Widowmaker

Gertrude Abercrombie

When I was in my early 20’s and jobs were a little scarce, my friend got me a job working at the nursing home where she was a cook.

The Ferncreek home used to be a small-ish hospital that was shut down after the big one went up in Devonside. There was an anemic garden out back and a few trees out front  that spent most of their lives as homes to tent caterpillars and Wasps.

It didn’t matter what kinds of bugs were out there hanging around in the trees out front. No one really came to visit the Old Folks so the front doors hardly ever got used.

The Folks were brought in and taken out through the same side door and the staff came in the back door near the dumpsters. At one time the garbage cans were painted yellow and white and that did add a little brightness to the lot, but happy colors weren’t the reason why they were painted yellow. It was so they would be easy for the  funeral directors to see when they backed their hearses up.

That was the Morticians idea. I think they hit them on purpose. They were sort of an odd bunch.

Back then the resident’s rooms were  tile and linoleum the walls were painted beige or baby diarrhea yellow. The beds were hospital beds that the owner probably bought used and most of them didn’t work the way they were supposed to.

Sometimes the Folks came in with quilts or afghans that really did cheer the room up. But after awhile and several washings later they  always faded.

 

Julissa Titchen looked like one of those mummies that archeologists find in ice. Her skin was wrinkled and molded against her bones. She was pale but when the light hit her just right her skin took on a reddish hue when she talked or winked- which I used to wish to God she wouldn’t do because the skin around her eye and the corner of her mouth would sort of creep up her face.

Julissa either looked energetic and lively or she looked dead. Even with her eyes open I was never sure if she was just off somewhere in her head or if she had passed when my back was turned.

She was kind of creepy.

 

One day  Julissa asked me to pull a box out of her closet so that she could sort it out. There were a few things she wanted to send along to her sister. ‘Some jewelry. ” she told me.

So I went to the closet and pushed her housecoats aside and on the floor of the closet was a box. It wasn’t taped shut, someone had just folded it closed.

She waved me over and I put the on a chair next to her bed and she opened it.

By this time I had seen a lot of things that the Folks brought in with them- little knick knacks and pictures. Some were in frames, some were snapshots in envelopes. And there were always bottles of unopened perfume and bottles of Brut or old Spice aftershave. So I wasn’t even looking into the box because I doubted that there was much to look at  when Julissa reached in and brought out a little bundle of black lace and diary with her name written in fine gold script across the front.

There were poetry books- or as my sister who was in college would call them ” Porn-a-try Books. ”

She winked at me.

Jeeze.

” Tokens from my Love ” she said sounding almost girlish. Kieran gave these to me when we finally started our life together five years ago.”

Julissa took out little boxes that jewelry comes in. She opened one and I was surprised.

It was a bracelet, but not an old fashioned bracelet.

It was a silver charm bracelet  and dangling from the links were little red daisies and hummingbirds. I asked to look at it and she put it into my hand. It looked like something me or my friends would wear.

Julissa laid her treasures out on the tray that swung across her bed and she touched them each with her gnarled hand.

I looked at her things and I assumed that she and her ” Love ” had gone through a Midlife Crisis together and these were the little souvenirs of that trip they took. All of her tokens looked like something a young man would give to his young girlfriend.

” Lula ” she said to me  ” Have you ever heard someone say they would go through Hell for their true love?”

I told her I had.

” I did that. ” she said. ” I went through Hell to claim my true love and I did it. I won him. And he won me. ” her eyes misted- which was not pleasant because it made her left eyeball look gelatinous.

” The problem is when  you go to Hell, you never know who or what you’ll run into. ”

She turned the box around and scratched into the side under Julissa’s name was

” Widowmaker.”

” Kieran’s wife-” Julissa began

Here we go, I thought. Old people in a love triangle. Ugh.

” Kieran’s wife found my Treasure Box. Kieran said he must of left it in his car on accident when he was helping me move.. But I think her took it home on purpose. You know. To give her a hint that things were over between them.  When he brought it back that was burned on the side uder my name. I thought Betty was just being an evil bitch and I let it go. What did I care? I had my True Love.”

” I should have gone through it. ” she said in her tired old lady voice.

” Was something missing?”

” Oh no. There was something  added. I didn’t see it. Maybe if I had, I wouldn’t be here and Kieran wouldn’t have died in that fire.”

She reached in and pulled out a little doll with a smooth, eyeless face. The doll’s hair was shiny and it smelled  faintly of rasperries.  The thin lips were painted bright red and the corners of the doll’s mouth were turned into a smile.

When I looked into that little face I thought of blue Spring skies and sweet cool Summer evenings. I wanted to touch it. I don’t know why but I did.

Julissa held it up and the little doll’s head turned. I stepped back.

Julissa dropped the doll in the box. ” It’s okay. Sometimes it moves around in there but it’s not dangerous. Not anymore.  I’m sure it did what it was supposed to do. Betty, like I said was an evil bitch. But she was a very focused Evil bitch.”

” What was the doll supposed to do? ”

” Lula, ” Julissa said ” I’m only thirty years old. ”

 

7 thoughts on “Julissa’s Treasure Box

  1. I’ve worked in nursing homes, and seen and heard some heart rending things so the twist you put on this story is particularly disturbing – which makes it one my favorites that you’ve written.

    • I used to have to do removals at a rather large- but nice Retirement home and of course we always went in through the back.
      There were these two older gentlemen that used to bring out lawn chairs and sit there for the sole purpose of giving the Funeral Directors a good ribbing when we came through.
      Eventually one of them told me what made it even more fun was that there were women Funeral Directors now and that was the extent of their ‘girl watching’ now.
      I loved those guys, they were Wolves but they were funny wolves.

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